some village in the middle of nowhere ( the village people)
After yesterdayâ€™s epic journey, we had a bit of a slow start, but eventually got up and made our way out of town. As Kat and I were both feeling a bit tired we thought it would be good to go and see some ruins rather than try and do some walking in the mountains. â€śLessons learntâ€ť from yesterday showed that the 100km to the Chavin ruins in Chavin de Huantar would take a little longer than expected. So off we went. First challenge was working out which little village actually contained the turnoff to get there as signposts seem to be frowned upon. Our map was not that helpful either as it looked as if the turnoff was coming out of one of two villages. We eventually found it and continued up a mountain pass. Surprise. This was a yellow road now.
donkey, woman and a mountan
More potholes. More bends. And one tunnel. Most of the drive goes through a national park which is really beautiful, but there are plenty of 1st gear hairpin bends on the way up. Also some nice boulders and rock falls in the road. We saw 2 boulders, still in the road which were bigger than the car. Now on to the tunnel â€¦. We get to the top of the mountain pass (4,500m) and there is barrier across the road and a construction site. No real indication of whether it would ever open etc. Luckily a small tour bus arrived and they opened up. We slowly followed into a tunnel. On the left some guys were laying the concrete for a surface. About 10m further the water started. This tunnel was under construction. Loose stones, gravel, dirt and pools of water about knee deep. I donâ€™t know how the hell we made it through. Basically following the bus helped but it was still terrifying. My knees were shaking when we got to the other side (about 200m). On the other side, it was a gravel road with more hairpin bends down about 1,500m to the town of Chavin de Huantar. In one section they were still building the â€śroadâ€ť so we had to wait about 20 minutes for a bulldozer to move sand out of the way. Kindly, the hairpin bends all have potholes well placed in random spots. Really keeps you on your toes. And of course, no barriers or protection of any kind, just a nice vertical drop down to valley for a couple of hundred metres. If we thought the previous dayâ€™s drive had been bad, we had been sorely mistaken. And the worst part was that we had to go back on the same road to get back to Huarazâ€¦. Bugger. Once in Chavin it was not exactly clear where the site of the ruins were either. We made our way into the central Plaza de Armas, which every city, town and village has. It seems that no matter how poor the town, they will always have a sparklingly clean, neat plaza with either a statue or fountain in the centre as well as an impressive church (being a highly catholic country). There was a fairly random map in the town centre which we could not understand and we made our way to what had looked like a gate. We found the entrance eventually (clearly these places are designed for people on a tour only ďż˝" who know where everything is) and paid the entrance of Sl 11 (Soles - ÂŁ1 = about 6 Soles, 1 Soles = R2). They have guides to take you around ďż˝" hey, surprise, only in spanishâ€¦ He was incredibly enthusiastic about his job, but did ramble on for a long time when we clearly did not understand. The Chavin culture was around from about 1500BC, when this temple dates from. The ruins have survived multiple earthquakes and alluvions (which is basically a combination of mudslide, avalanche, water etc), and have survived better than modern buildings. They were built with large pieces of granite with interspersed layers of â€śsofterâ€ť limestone which acts as a shock absorber. Impressive. Equally impressive are the hydraulic and aeration systems used (air ducts go through the entire structure and there are water ducts under the whole temple too). The more liberal of you will be pleased to know that the Chavin people were not into human sacrifice and were a peaceful culture that stretched from the Amazon to the sea and held men and women in equal regard and the male and female leaders had equal power. The magical number for the Chavin people was 7 so almost everything is done in multiples of 7. 7 steps, stairs at 70 degrees, San Pablo cactus has 7 leaves etc. The stairs on the temple (about 20m long) are actually made from single pieces of granite. Granite only occurs on the other side of the mountain (that we drove over) so they actually brought it across the mountain and down the 1000m to the temple. Very scary. The way they did it was shape the granite into cylinders and then roll them. Still very scary. There is a stone cross inside the temple which is the original (a copy is shown outside) which has impressive carvings of caiman (Amazonian crocodiles), condors, jaguars and snakes. Impressive to think that this has been there for more than 3000 years. The reason this temple was not trashed by the Spanish was that they were predominantly looking for gold (which was then melted down into bullion) and the Chavin people did not have much in this, preferring pottery and shells. We saw our first llamas and alpacas today too ďż˝" you can tell the difference between them from the wool on their neck (apparently). As a result I had to have alpaca for dinner. Quite dry but not bad. The trip back was not particularly fun either. On one corner a pothole caught me unawares and slammed BOOâ€™s nose into the ground, leaving a little bit of a bump on the front bumper (I suppose that is why they call it a bumper) ďż˝" a bit of a nose job that I donâ€™t think Budget rent a car are going to appreciate. In the tunnel again, we had some moments where we did not think we were going to make it through. I donâ€™t want to think how we would have got out if the car had broken down in the tunnel or if we had got stuck. Steam was coming from the front (and most probably from my ears too). We got home exhausted after 7 hours out and about (for 200km and a 2 hour tour), had a quick bite and went to bed. The altitude gives you a mild headache the whole day which is not entirely pleasant, so we were happy to get some well earned rest.